A new article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs describes the consequences of accidental overdoses of LSD in three individuals. In one case, a woman took 550 times the normal LSD dose, which equates to 55,000 micrograms! Amazingly, in all three cases, the overdoses resulted in positive outcomes.
Three Cases of Accidental LSD Overdose
The article authored by Mark Haden and Birgitta Woods presents two people who took an extremely high dose of LSD and not only lived to tell the tale but therapeutically benefited from the experience. In the third case, the woman was pregnant and the overdose did not affect the fetus. The article makes a strong argument for the low-toxicity of LSD, even at high doses.
Mark Haden, one of the authors and Director of MAPS Canada, told New Atlas that “What we do know is that people can take thousands of times the normal dose [of LSD]. There is evidence of that, and you can’t take a thousand times a dose of water. What’s a dose of water, maybe a glass? If you tried to drink a thousand glasses of water it would kill you.”
The resurgence of scientific inquiry into psychedelics has illuminated their many promising therapeutic applications. However, to reiterate an important fact, there is still much we do not know. On that note, no one really knows what the toxic dose of LSD is, but evidence suggests that in high doses, it’s less toxic than water.
This does not mean that LSD cannot cause permanent damage or that it is a good idea to experiment, as a disclaimer.
Case Report 1: Bipolar Disorder
A 15-year-old female accidentally ingested ten times the normal recreational dose, which is 100 mcg. Before that, this young woman had been dealing with mental health issues, exhibited symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, and even hypomania.
After an intense night, which ended at the hospital, her father came into her room the next morning to find his daughter cured. “It’s over,” AV said. She was not referring to the LSD trip but rather her bi-polar disorder. After that, her mental illness symptoms more or less disappeared. Her psychiatrist at the end of her case noted that “her insight and self-awareness was quite remarkable.” She was also able to successfully get off her lithium medication. AV reported that she was free from all mental illness symptoms for the next 13 years.
Case Report III: Physical Pain and Morphine
In another remarkable case, a 46-year-old woman took 550 times the normal dose of LSD. The next 12 hours were a blur. She mostly vomited.
Over the next 12 hours, she felt “pleasantly high” with some vomiting.
In her twenties, this woman referred to as CB in the article had contracted Lyme’s Disease and as a result, experienced chronic pain in her feet and ankles. Eventually, doctors had prescribed her morphine, which she had been on continuously for about a decade leading up to her LSD overdose.
Her foot pain was gone the day following her LSD overdose. Although her pain began to creep back in a few days later, she lowered her dose of morphine and microdosed with LSD. In the end, she was able to completely come off morphine and other pain medications.
Case Report II: LSD Did Not Damage a Fetus
Finally, a young woman had overdosed on LSD not realizing that she was two weeks pregnant. Her son is now 18 years old and appears to be a smart, social, and well-rounded young man.
In other words, LSD does not harm fetuses. At least at that stage of pregnancy. However, this is tricky territory because it would be strictly unadvised for pregnant women to experiment on this one.
More importantly, all these cases illustrate how nontoxic LSD is. We’re all different, however, and precaution should be taken with all substances no matter the dose. Though LSD may be safer than water in high doses, that does not mean it cannot cause permanent damage.
How do Scientists Test High Doses
Scientists cannot conduct experiments on human beings to find out how high can they go with LSD, or any drug, for reasons of ethics and safety. These types of studies are reserved for animals such as rats, and even an elephant named Tusko. Researchers injected Tusko with 297 mg of LSD, an astronomical amount even for an elephant. That’s more than 30 times what a three-tonne human might receive. Needless to say, Tusko died, and not quietly in his sleep either. Why that experiment was necessary, we do not know. What we do know, however, is that 297 mg will kill an elephant, so it might be safe to conclude that that amount would kill anything.
In any case, scientists cannot experiment with high dosages on human beings, although they have. In the 50s, for instance, the Addiction Center in Lexington, Kentucky under the jurisdiction of Harris Isbell, conducted LSD research on incarcerated black men with a history of drug abuse. This was also partially funded by the CIA as a part of the MkUltra project.
To cut a horrendous story short, these black men signed what appears to be a vague consent form and were administered LSD doses for 77 days in a row. As Dr. Monnica Williams told us, “Among other things, the researchers were looking to see things like how much LSD they could give somebody before their brain melted.” The researchers paid their subjects with heroin.
These exceptions aside, the way researchers assess the effects of high doses of are by cases that occur in the real world.
Better Safe than Sorry
On a final note, this is why you should always test your substances. We may never know the toxic dose of LSD, but we can mitigate the risks, however, of a traumatic trip or damage by our set and setting, knowing what we’re putting into our bodies, and how much.